Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Team History, Fighter Stats, Biographies and News

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Willis Nunes

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Willis Nunes is a jiu-jitsu black belt under Carlos Holanda, who worked extensively with coaches Henrique Machado and Kaiser Girão of the Checkmat Jiu-Jitsu Team (Dallas, TX branch). Nunes became widely recognized as one of the sport’s foremost competitors after his performance on the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (IBJJF) 2020 Pan American No-Gi Championships, Willis’ first major gold medal in grappling’s pro-circuit.

Willis Nunes Jiu-Jitsu

Full Name: Willis da Mota Nunes

Nickname: Willis is often referenced as “Pipoca”, which is stands for Popcorn in Portuguese. The nickname started with his aunt (Lani) because of Nunes’ hairstyle, which was puffed out at the time, like popcorn. The nickname fit Nunes’ description even more as he was a very lively child, always jumping around, being generally unpredictable.

Lineage: Carlos Gracie > Reyson Gracie > Osvaldo Alves >  Faustino Neto (Pina) > Carlos Holanda > Willis Nunes

Main Achievements:

  • 1st Place IBJJF Pan Championship NOGI (2020)
  • 1st Place IBJJF Oklahoma City Open (2020)
  • 1st Place UAEJJF Manaus Pro (2019)
  • 3rd Place IBJJF World Championship NOGI (2021)
  • 3rd Place IBJJF Pan Championship (2020)

Main Achievements (Colored Belts):

  • 1st Place CBJJE World Championship (2012 blue)
  • 1st Place FJJAM Amazonas State Championship (2018 brown)
  • 1st Place IBJJF Manaus Open NOGI (2016**)
  • 2nd Place IBJJF World Championship (2013 blue)
  • 2nd Place IBJJF Pan Championship NOGI (2018 brown)
  • 2nd Place UAEJJF Grand Slam, LA (2018 brown)

* Absolute
** Weight and Absolute

Favorite Position/Technique: Well-Rounded

Weight Division: Galo (57,5Kg / 127.0 lbs)

Team/Association: Checkmat

Willis Nunes Biography

Willis da Mota Nunes was born in Manaus – Amazonas, Brazil, on March 24, 1996.

Nunes grew up in the neighborhoods of Santo Agostinho and Santo Antônio, sharing the residence with his mother Neila, grandmother Pelcimira and also with aunt Priscila, where he spent his early childhood.

Before he started jiu-jitsu Willis practiced capoeira, hip hop dancing, and football (soccer), participating in two capoeira tournaments prior to his commitment to grappling.

At the age of 8, Nunes visited his first jiu-jitsu academy, the (now) famous ASLE, in the São Raimundo neighborhood, a gym run by sensei Henrique Machado – the man behind the success stories of athletes such as Ronaldo Jacaré” Souza and Ary Farias. Unfortunately, Willis’s first experience was short-lived, as he did not have the required authorization from his adult guardian to train with Machado. Nunes would return to training two years later with a coach nicknamed “Rato” (Mouse).

Nunes was 12 years old when he met his father, Paulo Jorge, and it was around that same time that Willis moved in with his dad, his stepmother, sisters, and brothers. Now under his father’s wing, Nunes had the permission to train jiu-jitsu, then joining Henrique Machado’s aforementioned ASLE academy – a gym that would later become a Gracie Barra affiliate.

As he developed in the sport of jiu-jitsu, Willis’ father became very involved as an encourager and supporter of the young talent’s career. At one point, as blue belt Nunes was getting ready to leave the house to compete at the CBJJE World Championship, in São Paulo, when Paulo Jorge promised Willis a car as a prize if he won the tournament. A promise given was a promise kept, and at the time of our interview with Nunes for this article, in November 2020, the grappler still had the car to remember him of this important moment in his life.

As a purple belt, Willis Nunes transitioned to Carlos Holanda‘s BJJ academy. Holanda, or Esquisito as he is often referenced, looking for a team with a more competitive environment that could further his international career. Holanda was widely regarded as one of the prime gyms in the state and the decision proved to be a wise option for the young Amazonas native who started gaining plenty of notoriety on the international circuit.

Nunes’ first big break at purple belt, internationally, happened at the 2017 IBJJF European Open, in Lisbon, Portugal, when Willis took out the tournament’s heavy-favorite, grappling phenom, Kennedy Maciel. After his solid performance at the 2017 Europeans, Willis Nunes traveled to the United States to compete in the top tournaments on the international circuit, and it was there he discovered his father had passed away. While grieving, Nunes pondered his retirement from the sport, but ultimately decided to stay and carry through with his father’s wishes, he who always took great satisfaction in seeing Nunes victorious on the mats.

In 2019, Willis Nunes was promoted to black belt by professor Carlos Holanda, and by the end of the year, Nunes was introduced to Kaiser Girão by both Holanda and another one of Carlos’ former students – Samuel Nagai. Girão ran a facility for professional-jiu-jitsu athletes in Dallas, Texas (USA) and was looking for someone willing to commit to his program. Willis was offered a position on the team, which the young black belt accepted, then becoming part of Checkmat Dallas.

Willis Nunes Grappling Record

    7 (64%)
    0 (0%)
    3 (27%)
    1 (9%)
    0 (0%)
  • BY DQ
    0 (0%)


Darce choke
    5 (38%)
    2 (15%)
    2 (15%)
    1 (8%)
    0 (0%)
  • BY DQ
    3 (23%)



Willis Nunes Fight History

ID Opponent W/L Method Competition Weight Stage Year
23733Lucas LimaLBotinhaF2W 14265KGSPF2020
23796Henrique RossiLReferee DecisionF2W 14565KGSPF2020
24113Lucas PinheiroLucas PinheiroLPts: 8x0Pan American57KGSF2020
24391Lucas PinheiroLucas PinheiroLPointsHouston Open64KGSF2020
27215Roiter LimaRoiter LimaLDQGrand Slam MIA56KGSF2021
28215Paulo MiyaoPaulo MiyaoLPts: 0x0, AdvNoGi Worlds61KGSF2021
29464Meyram MaquineMeyram MaquineLPts: 4x0World Champ.64KG4F2021
31597Italo BonfimLDQPan American57KGR12022
32469Osamah AlmarwaiOsamah AlmarwaiLRNCSD NGO55KGF2022
34697Huthayfah PenneyLDQJJ Con64KGSF2022
36786Cleber SousaCleber SousaLPts: 2x0NoGi Worlds61KG4F2022
38944Emilio HernandezEmilio HernandezLPts: 2x2, AdvNashville SPO64KGSF2023
39746Jordan VaismanJordan VaismanLPointsHouston Open64KG4F2023
14851Angelo GuilhermeWChokeManaus Pro62KGSF2019
23985Vinny SaenzWPointsOklahoma Open64KGSF2020
23987Marcus BeddorMarcus BeddorWPointsOklahoma Open64KGF2020
24111Matheus MagalhaesWPts: 10x4Pan American57KG4F2020
24439Washington LimaWGuillotineNo Gi Pan Am.57KGRR2020
24440Washington LimaWDarce chokeNo Gi Pan Am.57KGF2020
27217Frank CespedesFrank CespedesWPts: 7x1Grand Slam MIA56KG3RD2021
28209John StapletonWPts: 21x0NoGi Worlds61KG8F2021
28213Reynaldo LeonWPts: 8x0NoGi Worlds61KG4F2021
28735Joao SomaliaJoao SomaliaWReferee DecisionF2W 18660KGSPF2021
38943Luis NinjaWPts: 6x0Nashville SPO64KG4F2023
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